Gardener's Grapevine 2011.06.29

Written by David Green.

Sunday afternoon in Morenci is quiet and peaceful on my front porch, with a few cars going by, some kids on bikes, and the birds tweeting. Does it get much more relaxing? Soon the “lake parade” will start—people who weekend at the lake will head home and Main Street will be a parade route.

Many people drive from Point A to Point B and never really pay attention to most of the world going by. There are so many interesting and beautiful things and some quirky things also. My great-grandparents liked to take rides in the country and see how the crops were doing. They were farmers and such things made a huge impact on their lives. I drive close to an hour to work and most of it is in the country. I watch barns and homes being built and some being torn down. I see farmers every day in their fields.

It used to be that farmers separated their fields with fence rows which would overgrow with weeds, flowers and all manner of wild animals. This set property lines, but with the onset of mega farms, we see fewer and fewer fence rows. They’ve been replaced by miles of open farm fields.

A friend of mine asked me to write about wildflowers. She said it’s hard to know the types of flowers along the roadside because she has lived all over the country and every place she lives there are different wildflowers. I can see her point, however, I have lived here my entire life and only know a handful of wildflowers. Some of the ones I knew as a child are not seen so much anymore. The one that comes to mind is Queen Anne’s Lace. It used to be everywhere. My grandmother Katherine Wollter lives on Stateline Road, south of town, and she would put food coloring in a vase and I would pick Queen Anne’s Lace and place it in the vase. In the morning it would be the color of the food coloring and I was an amazed little kid. I did see a large amount of it over by Seneca along the road last week.

A lot of our native wildflowers that used to be roadside have gone away due to spraying and mowing. The county and state do this routinely. Sure, it keeps things tidy and the visibility is better, but I personally would rather see the flowers. The spindly plant with blue flowers on top is chicory. It is really pretty in bunches. There is still plenty of goldenrod for those of you with the wonderful allergies. Goldenrod seems to be hardy in a lot of conditions as it is so many different places.

Do any of you remember “ditch lilies?” Orange lilies that bloomed in late June or early July and were usually found in ditches. A lot of people dug them up and put them in their yards. They are a wildflower also. Mary Lampe told me the tall purple flowers that you sometimes see are called shooting fireworks—I always knew them as wild phlox.

There are hundreds of wildflowers, most of which are actually weeds that flower. There is a wonderful book on wildflowers called “Wildflowers of Michigan.” It tells what might pop up in different areas of the state and has a picture along with a description of the plant and its flower. I will warn you if you like wildflowers, be careful digging them up as some are protected due to endangerment like wild trillium. Another thing to point out is if you purchase wildflower seed beware, along with flowers you will positively get lots of weed seeds, too. But wildflowers are weeds, so does it matter?

Congratulations to the Erskin family on being chosen Garden of the Month. They live on East Street North and have a very beautiful home enhanced by many plants and flowers.

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